It’s been hard, for everyone, teams and fans alike to be able to enjoy this sport during a global pandemic. Having a playoffs with no home court advantage, no fans, no haters not even a parade after winning the title. The NBA needed to find a way to get the fans back whilst also attempting to not spread the virus. Luckily, with the rapid increase in people getting vaccinated fans have made their way back in the stands for the 2020-21 NBA Playoffs.
But to think everything would go back to how it once was, is a misconception. Fans are excited to be back, but maybe too excited. So much so that they haven’t been able to keep their emotions in check. In just the first round of the Playoffs we have had a hand full of players and fans altercations.
The Russell Westbrook Pop-corn incident
Russell Westbrook, who led the Washington Wizards to the NBA Playoffs on his back got into some trouble with a Philly fan. In Game 2 against the 76ers, Westbrook injured himself on an attempt to spin away from the defender. His team were already not favorites to win this series and his injury made that a guarantee. On his way into the tunnels a Philadelphia Fan threw Pop-Corn on the former MVP. Russell was understandably outraged and was stopped by the Wizards staff from doing anything he would regret.
Statement from the Philadelphia 76ers: Fan who dumped popcorn on Wizards‘ Russell Westbrook has had his season ticket revoked and been banned from Wells Fargo Center indefinitely. pic.twitter.com/jVBWWVcZjT
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) May 27, 2021
The fan was not apprehended immediately as he fled the scene. However the 76ers did come out a couple days later and issued an apology to Westbrook. They also terminated the fan’s season ticket and banned him from the Wells Fargo Center indefinitely.
The Trae Young spitting incident
Even if you care about the Covid 19 virus or not, spitting on any human is just plain wrong. Trae Young led the Hawks past the Knicks in the first round of the East Playoffs. And for that, the Knicks fans hated him. He enjoyed being the villain and that made one Knick Fan so mad that he attempted to spit on Trae.
With 8 minutes left in the 4th quarter of game 2, the Knicks were up 10. Trae goes to inbound the ball and the cameras are on him with star studded ensemble behind him. The Knicks fan might have taken inspiration from New York’s shooting that series because when he spat he missed Trae completely. Unfortunately for 50 cent, he was in the splash zone.
— NEW YORK KNICKS (@nyknicks) May 27, 2021
The video surfaced after the game and caught everyone’s attention. The New York Knicks also banned the fan from MSG and apologized to Trae Young.
The Kyrie Irving Water Bottle incident
Kyrie Irving might just be the one player that all the Celtics fans collectively hate. Kyrie had joined the Boston Celtics to get away from LeBron’s shadow. In his first season there, he was injured during the playoffs but his team still made the ECF without him. The hope was that adding him back into the lineup of a team that just made the conference finals would be enough for the Celtics to raise their 18th banner. He even promised to resign before the season opener. That season had more drama than a Spanish soap opera. All that lead to Kyrie breaking his promise and leaving in the offseason to join the Nets. That left a bad taste in the mouths of Celtic Fans.
This first round series was the first playoff matchup for Kyrie against his former team. Now Kyrie was playing on one the most stacked super teams of all time. So it wasn’t a shocker that Boston had no chance against the Nets even though Jayson Tatum gave it its all. Frustrations boiled over and after Game 4 a Celtics fan threw a water bottle on the Nets star.
The alleged offender showed up in court and was ordered to stay away from the TD Garden. He is also charged with one count of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon.
These were the 3 big incidents that happened in a span of a couple days. There was even a fan who ran onto the court of Game 4 of the Wizards-Sixers game. But he did no harm and was tackled in a way even the NFL would be proud of.
A recap on the NBA history with its fans
The NBA is an organization that provides entertainment to the masses. The NBA players are entertainers who entertain with their immense skill. But people seems to forget the fact that these 6 foot giants are humans too. Fan interaction with the players can go either way. You can get gems like a video of Bradley Beal giving you a reaction that is meme worthy.
But on the flip side of that coin you can get major problems like the
Malice at the Palace
November 19th 2004, the reigning Champions Detroit Pistons, who were in their Bad Boy Pistons era playing Indiana at home. The Pacers had some bad blood with the Pistons who had just knocked them out in the previous post season. Indiana were not only taking revenge but also making a point. Ron Artest, now Metta World-Peace, was torching one of the best defensive teams of all time. He scored 17 points in just the first quarter. With less than a minute to go the Pacers led 97-82. Even though the game was nearly over Ben Wallace attempted to get an easy bucket in the post. But Ron was having none of that and laid a hard foul on Ben.
Ben Wallace is a hot head and by just looking at him you know you don’t want to get into a fight with him. Ben was already frustrated with the outcome of the contest and that foul was enough for him to go after Ron. That was just the start of what ensued. They were both separated before anything irreparable happened.
Ron Artest tried his best to not get involved and slept flat on the scorers table, away from all the drama. A Detroit Fan, who didn’t consider the consequences of his actions, threw a diet coke in Ron’s direction. The entire arena was chaotic. Ron jumped over the scores table and went on and a had a full on wrestling match with the fans. Stephen Jackson and Jermaine O’Neal joined in the action. The fisticuffs continued on the court. Even Detroit players started fighting. Punches and kicks being thrown all over the arena. One fan even threw a chair.
How NBA reacted to Malice in the Palace
The NBA handed out the biggest Fines and suspensions in their history. Ron Artest was suspended for 86 games and lost 5 million dollars. Stephen Jackson missed 30 and Ben Wallace had to miss 6 games. Jermaine O’Neal missed 15 games but had to pay a fine of 4.1 million dollars. Those are some expensive punches if you had to ask me.
Should NBA be sterner with fans?
Even after witnessing the most infamous event in sports history, it baffles me that people think its okay to do what they do. NBA players are physical freaks and if they wanted to they could hurt you. But they have more control on their emotions than fans who just sit and watch the games. Fans are what bring life to the game but they aren’t above the law. Freedom of speech or no, ill treating other humans is not acceptable and if they do not learn this soon, games might go back to be played behind closed doors.